Zwift is growing, alot. When I first began to use Zwift on the beta course it was a big deal if 200 riders were on at the same time. Now nearly every time I log on I see 800+ I got back on the Zwift in late October this year. With my new work commute it’s tough to get much outdoor riding in through the week, but with Zwift I can be on my bike in a few minutes without worrying if my lights are charged or I’m going to end up with frost bite.
When I started back up I was introduced to the new London course, it’s a real hoot with a section in the Underground, and a wonderful climb up Box Hill. The climb is about 2 miles and fills in the medium long climb category that Zwift had been missing. The Richmond world championship course has been relegated to only a few days a month, which is OK with me.
Besides the new course and even bigger game changer is the support for organized rides. Now when you log in you see a list of upcoming organized events which can choose to join. In a few minutes before the event starts you’ll be prompted to join and if you do you’ll be transported to the new “rider pens” which are a section of road that connects up to the course. Some events will change your jersey or bike, like the World Bicycle Relief chairty ride that changed everyone’s bike to the Buffalo. The ride leader will have a yellow beacon over his head making it easier to stay together. Getting organized for a ride was a huge headache before this feature was added. It’s an awesome new addition.
Speaking of the WBR charity ride, there were over 600 people on that event, and about another 1000 people in Zwift. It was a surreal experience. I started near the back and churned out 400 watts for the first minute and passed hundred of riders, all in identical kits on identical bikes. At one point I could see the front of the ride, there were probably over 100 riders still ahead of me. I ran out of gas and the field split in front of me. My 400 watts became 140 and I was engulfed in a sea of WBR jerseys. Many, many people commented that they felt like they were in the Matrix.
Another new change is the addition of an iOS app. Since more and more people are doing everything online with their phone or ipad this should limit barriers and bring more people into Zwift, which I’m pretty sure it already has.
One last new addition is running mode. It’s still in beta testing and its rare to see a runner, but the character is the same biker avatar everyone has just with a running animation. Every time I see a runner on the side of the road I instantly think of Chris Froome.
This brings me back to the title of my article, Zwift is great, but it could be greater and it could be earning the company more money. As of now the only way to earn new gear is to finish challenges or go up in levels. That’s great, but you know people would spend a few bucks to get a custom helmet, or Enve wheels. My biggest problem with Zwift is after 3 years there is still only one male and one female avatar and the only way he or she can be modified is skin tone, socks, gloves, glasses or helmet. This is ridiculous. How hard would it be to roll out a few different body shapes, with a few haircut options? I know I would pay a few bucks to get a custom rider body and it would be awesome if the increasing crowded roads weren’t crowded with identical people.